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Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

The Ten Most Bitter Sporting Feuds – Part 2

In Boxing, Football, Uncategorized on July 27, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Ayrton Senna Vs Alain Prost

It shouldn’t be surprising that one of the most dangerous and glamorous sports in the world produced a rivalry with all the elements to make it the key component of a Hollywood movie. It’s not difficult to see why either – in the space of a few years the story saw friends turned into bitter enemies and it ended in tragedy.

Having formed a dream partnership together at McLaren in 1988 the two drivers contrasting styles saw them take fifteen out of sixteen wins in that season between them. Prost was methodical and mature, the thinking man’s racer whose attention to detail in set-up was the stuff of legend. Senna was younger, a more brash and flamboyant driver and come the end of the season it would be him who would win the title. Prost didn’t seem to harbour too much of a grudge about it conceding that Senna had been “too good”.

Yet, Senna’s aggression had angered Prost and the rivalry was truly born when Senna reneged on their gentleman’s agreement to let whoever was in the lead from the first lap maintain that lead without challenge. During the second round of the 1989 San Marino Grand Prix it was Senna who took the lead, only for the race to be restarted due to a crash. This time it was Prost who took the lead but Senna was having none of it, overtaking his teammate and speeding off into the distance.

What followed down the years was as intense a rivalry as sports had seen, both drivers publicly denigrating the other with numeorus barbs at press conferences off the track and battling each other with risky overtaking and vehicle collisions on it. Both also battled each other for titles, something that continued until Prost’s retirement at the end of the 1993 season.

Although Senna had never indicated it during their time as competitors he was heard saying on radio at the 1994 at San Marion, where the rivalry was born, “A special Hello to my dear friend Alain. We all miss you.” It was to prove to be Senna’s last race when his life was claimed in the last fatal crash that the sport has seen. Prost paid him the only tribute he knew how – “I have lost my greatest rival. The only driver that I ever respected…”

Muhammed Ali Vs Joe Frazier

A lot of the trash talking that surrounds boxers is there purely for hyping the fights. Even when it has genuine sentiment behind it, the general consensus is that any ill feeling is left in the ring, the true indicator of boxing’s roots as a sport fixated with gentlemanly conduct. Not so between two of the greatest names the fight game has ever seen, the rivalry still simmering now even in their old age.

Naturally it was Ali who started it. The “greatest of all time” before he was the greatest of all time always abused his opponents pre-fight but before his first encounter with Frazier he seemed to cross a line when he referred to him as “too dumb” to be champion and an “Uncle Tom”. Frazier wasn’t short of ammunition calling Ali a draft dodger and goading him by refusing to refer to him by his Islamic name and still using Casius Clay throughout the build up. Both fighters were undefeated and in the bout dubbed “The Fight Of The Century” it was Frazier who took both of Ali’s titles in a unanimous decision.

A rematch in 1974 went the way of Ali and it set up their third and final fight, The Thrilla in Manila. If there was any chance that Ali would have gained some respect for his opponent after having lost to him once before, it wasn’t evident from the way he continued to speak about Smokin’ Joe. He said he was “over the hill” and called him a gorilla. The 1975 fight was another classic, Ali earning a TKO in the 14th and it would be the last time they met but not the last time they battled.

Upon learning that Ali had Parkinsons in 1996 Frazier said “’They want me to love him but I’ll open up the graveyard and bury his ass when the good Lord chooses to take him.” Ali offered an apology in 2001, which Frazier was said to have accepted without comment.

Brian Clough Vs Don Revie

The most famous managerial rivalry in football and one that makes Wenger and Fergie look like firm friends, these two unashamedly spoke of their great dislike of one another in public at every given opportunity.

While manager at Derby Clough was extremely vocal about Revie’s Leeds team who he saw as being an overly negative and “dirty” team who used questionable tactics to win games at all costs. As he berated both their methods and success he held himself up as a champion of stylish football. He even put his name to an article that appeared in the Sunday Express that called for Revie to be fined and Leeds to be relegated to Division 2. It was an unprecedented outburst.

Revie had little time for Clough’s criticism seeing the disrespect as both foolish and unprofessional. A staunch believer in winning at all costs he saw his Leeds team as one to be applauded for their never say die attitude and couldn’t understand how someone who wanted to win as much as he did couldn’t appreciate the virtues of the team.

When Revie was left Leeds and given the job Clough always wanted as manager of England, Clough became his successor and the madness that followed in a 44 day tenure has been well documented, spawning an award winning book and a spin-off movie in “The Damned United”. Clough had no love in the dressing room from players he’d previously berated and tried to make wholesale changes. Revie saw this as a pathetic attempt to destroy his legacy.

While the feud would last throughout the lives its most memorable moment came when both confronted each other in an interview on Yorkshire Television in 1974. Coming after Clough had left Leeds, what he saw as his only failure, the two tore strips off each other and left the hapless interviewer a bystander.

The Ten Most Bitter Sporting Feuds – Part 1

In Uncategorized on July 24, 2011 at 2:33 pm

While many of us will wax lyrical about the great champions we’ve admired down the years, those who have pursued athletic excellence and amazed us with their talents, it is so much better when they come with a ready-made nemesis. The two become inseparable and give the sporting stories we all love to recant an almost mythic quality to them. They are all the better when there’s no quiet respect or dignity to them, just unbridled hatred and viciousness… Here’s a list of some of the most bitter feuds in sporting history.

Roy Keane Vs Alf Inge Haaland

Not so much a feud as an example of just how long the fiery-tempered Keane is willing to let something stew before seeking retribution, this warrants an inclusion for producing everyone’s favourite “dirty” tackle from the midfield general.

History forgets, of course, that it was Haaland that had effectively instigated the incident by standing over an injured Keane following a nasty tackle that saw the Irishman come off the worst. The thing that stuck in Keane’s sizeable craw the most was the accusation that he was feigning injury to avoid punishment.

Three and a half years passed before the two had a chance to go at it again and the first meaningful opportunity he got Keane went in for a knee-high challenge that saw Haaland fly through the air and land in a crumpled heap. Barely acknowledging the rightly brandished red card the player left the field only after delivering a barrage of insults in the ear of his writhing victim.

While the initial outcome was a five match ban and an unprecedented £150,000 fine, the challenge entered into the realm of football mythology when Keane stirred the hornet’s nest once more with the admission he had wanted to “hurt” Haaland in his autobiography.

Many pub bores are quick to point out that Haaland never played seriously again after this challenge took place and while that might be true the two aren’t linked. The injury that ended Haaland’s career was in the other leg, although one gets the feeling that Keane likes to believe it was him to blame as much as anyone else out there.

Ian Bothan v Ian Chappell

In 1977 an uncapped 21 year old English cricketer called Ian Botham was playing club cricket “down under”. After a few tipples in the Melbourne Hilton he happened to stumble across the Australian player Ian Chappell who was happily berating all things English after a few drinks of his own. The younger man asked him to stop before giving him a rather ungentlemanly uppercut, knocking him off his chair and into a table full of Australian Rules football players. Or so the story goes… Unsurprisingly Chappell denies it went like that at all.

Despite Chappell having retired before Botham had even represented his country the two always seemed to find reasons to talk about each other through the medium of the press. Chappell would often point to his impressive record of 75 tests with 5,345 runs and label Botham as “nothing special”. Botham on the other hand was more vicious and responded with “as a human being he is a nonentity.”

Although the incident in 1966 was often talked about as part of crickets great mythology, especially ahead of The Ashes, in 1996 Chappell stirred the hornet’s nest again by adding the up until then unspoken detail that Botham had threatened to cut him from “ear to ear” with a broken beer glass if he didn’t leave. Botham denied this newly revealed detail.

Old age didn’t calm them down when at last year’s Ashes the two had to be pulled apart in the car park after Chappell muttered an insult. At 55 and 67 respectively you think they would know better but some feuds just get more bitter with time.

Pele Vs Maradona

The debate about which one of these two is the greatest footballer of all time might well continue to rage for another fifty years. There is no doubt what side of the fence each of the two players are on though when it comes to such discussions and both have no qualms about expressing that.

Funnily enough, with no real playing overlap in their careers (Maradona’s debut was in 1976, with a past it Pele retiring in 1977) they have become fierce rivals solely because of the debate and little else. With only the occasional reference to each other prior to 2000 it was FIFA that seemed to set the ball rolling with their online vote to crown the player of the century. After Maradona won it, they decided to alter the award and dubbed it in the “Internet Player Of The Century” giving the main award to the much more clean cut – Viagra not withstanding – Pele.

This prompted a tirade of spiralling abuse from the always emotional Argentinian that started with him saying Pele won “by forfeit” and the had had won “the people’s vote” and ended with him stating that Pele had a homosexual affair during his time at Santos. Pele made it clear he’d not be responding to the allegations due to Maradona’s drug problems fuelling delusions.

Each year afterwards when one spoke to the press it seemed the other was never far behind. In 2007 Maradona said “I won’t network and lick my way through Fifa. I won’t do that, that would make me a total son of a bitch. Like Pele.” The Brazilian followed up with a call for Maradona to be stripped of his honours “”Why is it Olympic athletes lose their medals when caught taking drugs, but not him?”

It’s showed no sign of abating with only last year Maradona insisting that “Pele should go back to the museum and stay there” making this feud between two sportsmen more akin to something you might see on an internet forum.

Ashely Cole Declares Himself “Not Infallible”

In Football on July 8, 2011 at 12:33 am

If ever there was any proof that the modern day footballer is divorced from reality it has to be Ashley Cole. The reputation he has acquired for himself has completely offset any positive praise he would ordinarily receive for being the best left-back of his generation. Instead he finds himself universally despised, reviled by the club that made him, booed by the fans of the country he represents and treated like an unwanted stepchild by supporters of the club he currently plays for.

Yet despite this being entirely his own doing, Cole recently sat down with the BBC for an interview where he revealed that he was at a loss to explain it all. “”I’ve made mistakes and have just got to live with it” he said, as if he was some kind of victim in all of his past transgressions. Of course the interview itself was motivated completely from a point of self interest – Only a few days prior to it the new Chelsea manager, Andre Villas-Boas, had said he wanted his players to be role models.

Knowing he might not be seen as a sympathetic character he diverted attention to how much the stories were hurting his mother. “What parent wouldn’t [find reading them difficult]” he lamented, without ever making the connection in his mind that as he was the person causing the stories in the first place perhaps he should shoulder some of the blame for it all.

What exactly is the fuss about? Well, with Cole it’s difficult to know where to begin. So many almost certainly true stories can’t even be printed but anyone who has stood on the terraces and listened to the chants could probably fill in some of the details. Still, if we only want to operate in the realms of proven fact – wise to do in this age of super injunctions – then here’s what we do know. He was a player who betrayed the club that had nurtured his talent and given him a platform to play his way into the England squad when he held secret talks with Chelsea while still under contract. The move was completely financially motivated and was so successful that the £100,000 he was fined for being in breach of FA regulations regarding contract was likely made up in his first few weeks at his new home.

On the pitch there are numerous examples of petulance and ill temper. The 2008 tie between Chelsea and Tottenham resulted in a horror tackle on Alan Hutton that sent the defender to the hospital. Under the advisement of his club he came out and made a public apology. The club then said this was indicative of a new, mature Cole and applauded him for doing what they had told him to.

Perhaps they were right though… Gone was the arrogant person who couldn’t understand the criticism he received from teammates when he released an autobiography aged just 25. Alternatively though he was the same old Cole. Certainly that maturity seemed lacking when he was arrested for swearing at a police officer while coming out of a nightclub the following year. Or when he was convicted of a speeding offence – doing over twice the 50 MPH speed limit – only a few months after that.

Then there was the serial infidelity to his wife Cheryl that seemed to make the tabloids every few months or so. It took a while but a very public divorce began. In a time when England footballers were having the captaincy stripped from them for simply having sexual relations with a teammates ex, Cole again seemed unaware of the significance of what it all meant in terms of his image.

Eclipsing all his previous acts of stupidity though had to be shooting a student on work experience with an air rifle. Yes, flying in the face of other footballers lending the name to anti-gun crime drives, Ashley was instead larking about with an air rifle and decided to shoot the lucky trainee in the next. Quite an experience to take away from his time at the football club.

In the interview Cole explained that it was just some sort of weird accident, a freak occurrence he was powerless to prevent:

“If someone had actually seen the incident – you wouldn’t laugh because it was a stupid thing to do – but the whole situation was crazy. Of course it was an accident.”

At least it wasn’t malicious then, which is perhaps something that had been lost in the clamour to smear Cole’s good name – had anyone actually asked if he had deliberately shot the individual, who needed medical attention after the incident? Well, sure a few did. Many didn’t think to. The presumption was it had to be an accident but still one caused by negligence and stupidity. Cole doesn’t feel he has to defend these, only intent. This is a huge part of the psyche that makes him disliked by even those with memories that only go back as far as his last appearance in the red tops.

“…at the end of the day I just want to play football, I’m here to play football. I just wish people would judge me more on football and speak about football more than a life that people don’t really know.”

He added this heartfelt plea before going on to talk about the restaurant he was launching with Jay-Z, one that would provide jobs for underprivileged kids and certainly give Cole some positive press this time around.

Oh yes, Cole is all about the football and he on occasion makes a mistake or two. What’s the problem?